What questions do you expect library staff to consider before jumping in to social media?

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? was an album by The Cranberries. Their debut album, if I remember correctly. The title of it sticks in my head and has popped up a lot over the years. Most especially lately when I hear libraries talk about social media and whether or not they should be there, too. What I often hear is "Everyone's on Facebook" or "Our customer's are on Twitter" or "Pinterest is THE place to be." Those reasons on their own, either individually or collectively are good reasons, they're just not reason enough. Someone wrote in and asked "What questions do you expect library staff to consider before jumping in to social media?" I think possibly the best way to answer this query is to share the process we have for our staff/branches who want to do the same. That'll cover off what I expect OUR staff to ask themselves. So that's the topic of today's post. When you get a little further into the post it's going to seem like I'm a mean horrible person - and you'd be right - but I think it's important to do this. I also think that these questions are ones any library could - note: COULD not SHOULD - ask themselves before jumping in. Once again I've been a slacker about updating this blog. I'd apologise and promise to be a little more regular, but those of you who follow me on Twitter/Facebook and Tumblr know that I am far too distracted by life and things and stuff. That is not about to change any time soon. So I'll settle for saying that I'll update and answer your questions as I can. I'm a nerd who hangs out on the intramanets to re-blog all the Tumblr fandom pheels she can. Sometimes, I just happen to have thoughts and opinions about libraries and social media.

Query: What questions do you expect library staff to consider before jumping in to social media?
Short answer: Would you like fries with that? I'm kidding! There is no short answer to this. See below.

More thoughtful answer: We have a two part process. The first part is informal and is usually a chat - either by phone, email or in person - and the second part is more formal. We have a social media proposal form that any and all community libraries fill out if they want to facilitate a social media stream. The form asks the usual kinds of questions like who'll run the stream, what platform will they be using, etc. That's the formal part of the process and it's all in writing. The informal bit, though, is my favourite. It's where I ask staff a series of questions. It can seem like a pretty daunting list. I don't ask them for the hell of it, and I certainly don't ask expecting that they'll know all of the answers, or to even provide me with any. I ask them the questions below because I seriously want them to think about anything and everything BEFORE setting themselves up, BEFORE filling out the proposal form. See what I did there? BEFORE. Everyone knows that isn't always the case, though. Staff get excited about the possibilities of social media and jump in feet first. Sure, I'd prefer they didn't do it that way (most especially if the reason is that everyone else is doing it so why can't we?), but I'm not going to cry about it if they do. I still expect them to go through the process afterward. My job isn't to say who of our staff can or can't be in social media. I'm not a gatekeeper. It's more to find those who have an interest, train them, help them get set up, provide ongoing support, answer any queries they have, listen to any ideas they have for developing those spaces and help them do that. A part of that means getting them to see how much work it can be. I've always seen it as a relationship and, like any relationship, it requires ONGOING effort. I also want them to see that it can't be a single person running it. The whole branch needs to be on board. And it needs to be about more than links and events information. I think when a lot of our staff say they want to be on Facebook or Twitter, it's kind of a half-formed thought, which is why I not-quite-but-almost-scare them with these questions:

  • Is this REALLY where your library needs to be?
  • Why are you HERE in this space? – to promote your services? For professional development? Curiosity?
  • How do you intend to develop this space?
  • How do you intend to develop your staff who use these spaces on your behalf?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Who will run your streams?
  • Will you operate evenings and weekends? If not, is this made clear on your streams?
  • Will you have staff backup?
  • Are you prepared to handle feedback?
  • Do you have a content plan?
  • What will you/won’t you discuss/share?
  • Have you trained your staff?
  • Have you trained them well?
  • Do you trust them to talk on behalf of the organisation?
  • What kind of 'voice' will you be using?
  • What kind of ‘personality’ will your stream use?
  • Is it ok to post about controversial topics?
  • Is it ok to have opinions?
  • Who is your audience?
  • How well do you know your customers?
  • How well do you know your business?
  • Should you be asking customers for feedback?
  • What are you going to DO with that feedback?
  • How will you measure your success?
  • What kind of stats will you be collecting?
  • What are you going to do with those stats?
  • Nine times out of ten, branch staff have considered a variation of these already. For the one that hasn't, it's a great opportunity to sit down and really talk and get an idea of what it is they're wanting to do. Really, though, my mind is always a little more settled when the staff that step forward are ones who are online carving it up in a personal sense, anyway.


    1. Thanks for this great post- I take care of our library Twitter account so its a nice reminder to think about in what direction my tweets should be going and thinking about the details too.

    2. Thanks for this! I am one of the key Social Media peeps for my library, and these are some really good questions. I'm going to work through these and write down what my answers are.

    3. Julia: Thanks for reading and commenting :) I very much enjoyed your It's the small things that count post!

      Adrian: Hey you! Long time no chat :) The list of questions is atrociously long, and I keep thinking I should shorten it, but then I feel like I wouldn't be giving them a fair idea of what they're getting into.


    Kia ora! Please leave your comment below :)